Paisley's Certain Victory?

In today’s Irish Times, John Waters takes a look at what he describes as the “last battle over the meaning of the Troubles” (subs req.). “The war is over”, he agrgues, “but there remains the matter of settled interpretation.”

Waters continues: “Dr Paisley last week restated his case: the IRA must disband before his party will resume powersharing with Sinn Féin. The Taoiseach baulked at the word “disbandment”.

Instead, he reiterated, the IRA must cease all criminal and paramilitary activity and “become a commemorative organisation”. He can’t see why anybody “would force an organisation to do more than that”. I’ll tell you why: because by doing so, unionism can claim total and final victory over the IRA. If the IRA disbands, it will have been established that the IRA was not merely an illegal organisation but an unambiguously terrorist organisation. Since that is what Dr Paisley has always claimed, it is hard to see him now resiling from his long-stated position by agreeing to the commemorative idea. Commemorate what, from Dr Paisley’s viewpoint? The murder of police officers and innocent civilians, with perhaps an annual pageant in memory of Brighton?”

Having discounted a return to “war”, Waters concludes that:

“The worst that can occur, therefore, is a continuing stand-off. Dr Paisley has remained constant. The Provisionals hunker down to discuss their options.

The two governments again seek formulations and fudges by which to move the situation forward. Whoever blinks first, it will not be Dr Paisley. If there is a solution, it will almost certainly involve a total victory for him.”

  • aquifer

    Which leaves SFPIRA scratching around for whatever the governments may grant them. Which could be quite a lot, perhaps going over the heads of the politicians to put in place a local veto proofed settlement.

    Paisley does seem to be in a heads he wins tails you lose situation, with any refusal to lose the gun in the context of SF electoral primacy confirming that ‘they were only ever terrorists’.

    Trouble with SFPIRA’s conduct of the ‘peace process’, unlike most of the terrorist campaign, is that there is plenty of evidence and witnesses around to back re-interpretation in the event of hostilities recommencing.

  • Charles

    Isn’t there a little matter of Paisley’s personal culpability from the mid-sixties in actually reigniting a dormant “armed struggle” by successfully (but inaccurately) characterising the Civil Rights movement as an IRA-front organisation, by instigating, organising and applauding attacks on (Roman)Catholic/nationalist populations, by demonising (Roman)Catholics as a group and as individuals. He may be a political leader now, but he was a rabble rouser who caused misery to innocents and who fought the integration of (Roman) Catholics into NI society on an equal footing every step of the way. These are not prejudiced ravings but established historical fact. If he is ultimately seen as the victor, it will be a sad comment on NI specifically and the UK generally.

  • tadhgin

    I second Charles, except that if you look at who has moved over the last 40 odd years it is hard to see Paisley as anything but a loser: the man who threw snowballs at Sean Lemass ends up in discussions with Ahren on the internal politics of NI; the man who rejects power sharing in 1973/74 ends up being rebuffed by nationalists when he suggests volountary coalition; and Nationalists who started off wanting integration with the Northern State end up with Irish government involvement and north-southery. The Ian Paisley of 1965 would call the Ian Paisley of 2005 a traitor. This type of Unionism involves picking battles that can’t be won or don’t matter.

  • hotdogx

    excellent statement tadhgin! I really believe paisley has found himself in a situation in recent years. Unionisim has lost the absolute control over the six counties that it once had in the past and paisley is between the rock and the hard place!

    He knows fine well that if he demands the disbandement of the IRA this will allow unionists to say that unionisim won the war, which in turn is what will bring on the armed conflict once again as the IRA will refuse to allow the unionists to say they have won the war.

    Paisley wants the union at any price even with the troubles back again. he will do all in his power to destroy the peace process/power sharing so that nationalists will be once again demonised and the status quo will remain? -A new way of saying “ulster says no” withot appearing resposible for the failure of the peace process!

  • fair_deal

    “Unionisim has lost the absolute control over the six counties that it once had in the past “

    Unionism lost that in 1972.

  • aquifer

    thanks for the reminders charles and tadghin. And some of his supporters happened to detonate the first bombs of this troubles, disrupting the water supply from the mournes to belfast. I’m sure I saw a TV interview with him at a march during the second unsuccessful ‘Ulster Workers” Strike where he said he would confine himself to church work if the strike failed. Would that he had. As to his prospects of political achievement. Perhaps calling his church ‘Martyrs Memorial’ tells us something.

  • hotdogx

    Mr paisley is going to very soon find himself in government with sinn fein as both governments are going to push the process forward as much as they can.They will not stand by and allow one small minded biggot to ruin the peace process that a massive majority of irish people voted for. The british and the irish governments have both alot to loose if we end up with the troubles all over again! Paisley doesn’t care about peace just the union and his constituency of unionists!

    The provos will not wait forever for the implimintation of the north south bodies and this will put further pressure on the governments so as to avoid a return to the troubles. Big ian is not so big anymore!

  • martin

    Big Ian also knows that the moment he is no longer leader of the Dup there are plenty of his underlings who will be quick to cut a deal and get that job as first minister that he craves for himself—KING Canute.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Fair deal

    “Unionism lost that (the absolute control over the six counties) in 1972.”

    Not so. The Ulster Unionist Party lost power and the Stormont junta was driven into exile, sure, but where did power go? Nominally it went to a (of necessity pro-union) British Secretary of State. He would fly in for two afternoons a week to sign some papers handed to him by his team of (exclusively pro-union) mandarins – and they really ran the place.

    So what really happened in 1972? The fall of the majoritarian despots was a major advance, make no mistake, but the only power unionism really lost was the power to make prejudice and bigotry and sectarianism explicit policy. Red herrings and mendacious, meaningless analogies replaced shameless viciousness. Mostly, all unionism lost was face. All power remained in pro-union hands and, to a great extent, still does. (Hence Molyneaux’s policy of doing nothing while the place crumbled – lavishly rewarded at the polls by the unionist communuity).

    The fall of Stormont put (some) manners on unionism but didn’t mean NI suddenly ceased to be a unionist-dominated state.

    (Jesus, look at the hissy fit last week with the appointment of non-unionist Monica McWilliams.)

  • el rojo

    unfortunately mr paisley is yet to abandoned the good old “ulster is protestant” way of thinking, therefore he doesn’t face reality, war is over and it’s time for him to shut his mouth. hopefully he will die soon…

  • raff

    It is about time people started putting some of the blame (for some read ‘most’) for the serious discord, murder and mayhem of the past 36 years at the feet of ‘the reverent Ian Kyle Paisley’. This arch bigot stirred up sectarian hatred and help found the paramilitary group ‘Third Force’. He has, at all times, been behind the scenes encouraging the Neanderthals on the loyalist side to take action against his perceived pan nationalist force, then denouncing them when they are caught.
    For a so called man of God his condemnation of another Christian denomination is laughable, again fanning the flames of sectarianism and contributing to the wholesale slaughter of innocent Catholics.
    When the Catholics and indeed Protestants began agitating for equal rights in the late ’60’s, ALL of the bloodshed and pain could have been prevented by allowing the ‘taigs’ a little parity. Even this was too much for the hate filled and paranoid Paisley and he denounced the whole Civil Rights movement as IRA led. As the IRA at this stage were little more than a few old soldiers that were unable or unwilling to carry on an armed struggle against British Imperialism, Mr Paisley gave the Republican movement the kick in the backside and justification it need to wage war.
    When will all of those who lament the deaths of their loved ones in the ‘security forces’ at the hands of Republicans apportion Mr Paisley his fair share of responsibility?

  • barnshee

    ” Even this was too much for the hate filled and paranoid Paisley and he denounced the whole Civil Rights movement as IRA led”

    How was he able to do that? how did he convince the (majority of) prods he was right? how did a figure of derision in the majority of the prod population turn them around?

  • raff

    Mr Paisley was able to manipulate the people through the very same methods that Messer’s Bush and Blair use and that is fear. Paisley preached IRA and Romanist conspiracy theories and he feed directly into the well established siege mentality of the protestant people. Unfortunately there were far too many bigots who were willing to go along with this man and help sustain the IRA man in Catholic clothes belief.

    According to Dr William Sargant, (1957),
    “Various types of belief can be implanted in people after brain function has been deliberately disturbed by accidentally or deliberately induced fear, anger or excitement. Of the results caused by such disturbances the most common is temporarily impaired judgement and heightened suggestibility. Its various group manifestations are sometimes classed under the heading of ‘herd instinct’, and appear most spectacularly in wartime, during severe epidemics and all similar periods of common danger, which increase anxiety and so individual and mass suggestibility”.

    Just a thought!

  • pocohantas

    “If the IRA disbands, it will have been established that the IRA was not merely an illegal organisation but an unambiguously terrorist organisation”

    and…?